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World Cup: Journey of a simple fan

  • Published at 12:12 am June 24th, 2020
World Cup
In 1982, for the first time, I was introduced to a new thing called World Cup football
Circa 1982. 

I was a student of class 3 in Government Laboratory High School, Dhaka. 

Just like every other Laboratorian, I used to play in that big school ground. 

At any point of tiffin time, minimum 20 teams used to play football in that field crisscrossing playing ground. 

Well, you get the picture anyway.

In Dhaka back then, the football lovers were divided in two big fan bases. 

Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited and Abahani Limited (with a few Brothers Union supporters here and there, but they were negligible). 

Even in school we used to have matches among classmates based on fanbases of these two teams. 

Mohammedan used to wear white and black jersey and Abahani blue and yellow. 

Players like Abdus Salam Murshedy and Chunnu were our idols. 

The whole city used to be divided in two on the matchday. 

There used to be big flags of the two teams everywhere.

I was a Mohammedan supporter (I know my two elder siblings are laughing at this. I used to support Brothers for a special player called Mohsin, whose career was cut short due to a fire cracker landing on him. He was really a special player. And as Brothers consistently finished third, I being a glory hunter changed my allegiance to Mohammedan, especially due to Murshedy and Badal Roy, among others).

Anyways, I digress. 

In 1982, for the first time, I was introduced to a new thing called World Cup football. 

It was being played in Spain. 

And we read in newspapers that some matches will be shown live on TV. 

Group matches were shown delayed or probably highlights on BTV (well there was only one channel then). 

Still remember laughing at the 10-1 result of Hungary v El Salvador match.

There was one game, between Brazil and Italy. 

It was a do-or-die match as whoever won would have qualified for the semi-final. 

Earlier, Brazil defeated Argentina, where Diego Maradona was shown a red card, and Italy also beat Argentina. 

And no one actually thought Italy could win against Brazil. 

We were in my aunt’s house in Moghbazar. 

My uncle, who was an ardent Brazil fan, kept cursing everyone under the sun as to why this match was not being shown on TV. 

We were glued on TV news. 

There was a late night news (I think at 11:30pm). 

The newscaster famously said and I remember vividly, “আজকে ব্রাজিল বনাম ইতালি এর মধ্যে খেলায় উভয় দল ৩-২ গোল করেছে”. 

It translates to: In today's game between Brazil and Italy, both teams scored 3-2.

Imagine the frustration of Brazil fans, they were not sure what had happened!

And after the Bangla news was overcame, theEnglish version made it clear that Brazil lost. 

I remember my uncle having a complete meltdown and started to weep. 

That was my first introduction to football passion. 

That Brazil team was something, with players like Zico, Socrates, Eder, Falcao and Junior, they probably were the best around. 

And Italy had an old man called Dino Zoff (affectionately known as Papa Dino then) as goalkeeper, Antonio Cabrini and Claudio Gentile in defence and a balding man called Francesco Graziani in attack and a player who could not be seen on the pitch but only when goal was scored, you could hear the commentators say his name, Paolo Rossi. 

Again I digress as you will see many guys called Zico and Rossi who were born around 1983-84 and you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess where did the parents thought the names of. 

This guy Rossi scored a hat-tick againt Brazil. 

My family is a bit sports mad kind of family. 

I have eight uncles and one aunt on my paternal side and six aunts and one uncle on my maternal side. 

Nearly all of them are sports freak. 

Especially Tunu uncle (Akhteruzzaman, who was a banker and now settled in US). 

My eldest uncle, Barrister Aminul Hoque, apparently watched the 1978 World Cup when he was in England, and kept praising a guy called Cesar Luis Menotti, the Argentine coach, and Mario Kempes. 

Those names were unknown to a young boy like me. 

All I remember was Menotti sitting on the sidelines and chain smoking his way through the Argentina matches. 

I also recall Enzo Bearzot (the Italian coach) smoking cigars during the game.

Then came the semis. 

Poland faced Italy. 

Poland had a player called Zbigniew Boniek, while another named Grzegorz Lato was completely, shiningly bald. 

Only thing I remember of that match was that guy Rossi scoring two goals and steering Italy to the final. 

But that is not the game I want to talk about. 

It was the second semi-final between France and Germany that sealed my fate as a supporter.

I have seen that match live and even now, whenever I need to lift up the spirits, I watch it on Youtube. 

What a game it was, it had everything. 

The Germany captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was ill and couldn’t start. 

The German team were known as Rummenigge and 10 robots for their mechanical play, on the other hand France had Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Manuel Amoros, all these creative players. 

I can still remember that night. 

The Germans opened the scoring through a Pierre Littbarski strike in the 17th minute, and the French equalized nine minutes later with a Platini penalty. 

In the second half a long through ball sent French defender Patrick Battiston racing clear towards the German goal. 

With both Battiston and the lone German defender trying to be the first to reach to the ball, Battiston flicked it past German goalkeeper Harald Tony Schumacher from the edge of the German penalty area and Schumacher reacted by jumping up to block. 

Schumacher didn't seem to go for the ball, however, and clattered straight into the oncoming Battiston – leaving the French player unconscious, and knocking two of his teeth out. 

Schumacher's action has been described as "one of history's most shocking fouls". 

The ball went just wide of the post and Dutch referee Charles Corver did not deem Schumacher's tackle on Battiston to be a foul, and awarded a goal kick. 

Play was interrupted for several minutes while Battiston, still unconscious and with a broken jaw, was carried off the field on a stretcher.

After French defender Amoros had sent a 25m drive crashing onto the West German crossbar in the final minute, the match went into extra time.

On 92 minutes, France's sweeper Marius Trésor fired a swerving volley under Schumacher's crossbar from 10m out to make it 2–1. 

Six minutes later, an unmarked Giresse drove in an 18m shot off the inside of the right post to finish off a counter-attack and put France up 3–1. 

But West Germany would not give up.

I saw a red eyed, visibly sick Rummenigge warming up and coming on. 

And then in the 102nd minute a counter-attack culminated in a cross that recent substitute Rummenigge turned in at the near post from a difficult angle with the outside of his foot, reducing France's lead to 3–2. 

Then in the 108th minute Germany took a short corner and after France failed to clear, the ball was played by Germany to Littbarski whose cross to Horst Hrubesch was headed back to the centre towards Klaus Fischer, who was unmarked but with his back to goal. 

Fischer in turn volleyed the ball past French keeper Jean-Luc Ettori with a bicycle kick, levelling the score at 3–3.

The match went to penalties, with France and West Germany participating in the first ever penalty shootout at a World Cup finals. 

Giresse, Manfred Kaltz, Amoros, Paul Breitner and Dominique Rocheteau all converted penalties before Uli Stielike was stopped by Ettori, giving France the advantage. 

But then Schumacher stepped forward, lifted the tearful Stielike from the ground, and saved Didier Six's shot. 

With Germany handed the lifeline they needed Littbarski converted his penalty, followed by Platini for France, and then Rummenigge for Germany as the tension mounted. 

France defender Maxime Bossis then had his spot kick parried by Schumacher, who anticipated it, and Hrubesch stepped up to score and send Germany to the World Cup final yet again with a victory on penalties, 5–4.

That was the moment when I identified the white jersey of Mohammedan with Die Mannschaft’s. 

I think the idea of “never say die” attitude the Germans shown that day sealed my fate for International football. 

Players like Karl Heinz Forster, Hans Peter Briegel, Felix Magath, Breitner, Littbarski, Hrubesch, Schumacher, Fischer, Stielike were no superstars, but together with that blonde Rummenigge created a magic that mesmerized a young mind. 

I still play that game in my mind. 

That made me a fan of Germany and it still continues. 

I faced my first international footballing heartbreak in the final. 

Germany were outplayed by Italy with that Rossi scoring one. 

But by then I decided to support Germany and no matter what, my resolve could not be shaken.
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